Whether you're a "plan in advance" or a "go with the flow" style of traveller, a little bit of convenience can go a long way. There are more apps now than ever that can greatly make a positive difference in the quality of your trip, whether it's translation on-the-go, or planning a complicated route.
The following apps are my personal favourites that I use which have made my life a heck of a lot easier while abroad, broken down by category.
Being able to get from A to B is crucial when travelling. There are also major safety concerns, especially if you're a solo female traveller, to just winging it when you're in a new country. Having systems in place for you to use when you need them is very important and can make a huge difference in the quality of your trip.
Maps.me- While Google Maps is a great tool, there are going to be times when either you don't have a SIM card, can't find a wifi connection, or are in an area without service. Maps.me is a great resource because you can download maps of certain cities or countries while on a wifi connection and use the maps while offline.
It's in desperate need of an update in regards to active retail/restaurant locations, and you don't get the helpful features of Google Maps with reviews, operating hours etc., but the navigation part of it has saved me more than a handful of times.
Ride Share apps- Not only is it important to be able to call for a ride when you need it, but ride share apps are also a great resource for determining the cost of a ride so you don't get swindled by the taxi drivers (aka, the dreaded gringo tax). I found this especially helpful in South America. Many taxi drivers would try and charge 3x the amount per ride, so if you can reference the cost on a drive share app prior, it works as a great negotiation tool to avoid paying more than you need to.
Uber is used in a lot of countries, but it's helpful to research the ride-share apps available in the country you're visiting. For example, Grab is useful in Vietnam and Thailand, PassApp is used widely throughout Cambodia, and Cabify is popular throughout the continent of South America.
Roam to Rio/12Go Asia- These sites/apps are a great source if you're heading somewhere that may require a little more admin and planning. Say you need to take a bus and then a ferry, or a bus to a train to a plane; these kinds of sites are great resources that take all the guesswork out of planning. It will tell you the best routing, the exact companies you can use, give exact or rough estimate costs, and will sometimes even let you book directly from the site. A huge help to have so you can spend less time planning, and more time enjoying your trip.
Unless you're planning to sleep outside at a bus station (did that once, do not recommend unless you want to be a mosquito buffet), you're going to need a way to book your accommodation. Downloading booking apps are very helpful since you can look for accommodation on the fly, and many also store your credit card information, so in a few simple clicks, you have your next stay booked.
Many also include reviews which is critical when determining which type of stay you want to have (for example, if you're looking for a tranquil retreat and some privacy, you'll find out within seconds of reading reviews for Mad Monkey and Vietnam Backpackers that you should probably look elsewhere).
Air BnB- Air BnB costs can vary depending on where you visit. I've been in places where it was actually cheaper to rent a whole apartment through Air BnB than a dorm bed at a hostel. Of course, this resource is best if you need your own space, need a bigger space if you're with a few friends, or want to live a more unique experience in a local person's home.
Air BnB also recently added an "experiences" tab where you can book everything from city tours to cooking classes, to sunset sails. While usually more expensive than other outlets, every Air BnB experience I've personally booked has been a success!
Booking.com- Booking.com has been a solid resource for me when planning my travels. It has a user-friendly interface, and many times does not even require a deposit to hold rooms (but does need credit card info in case of a no-show). You can also find out a lot of information in regards to reviews, accessibility, the average age of guests, inclusions in the rate, and so much more.
Hostelworld- Even though this app requires a deposit which goes directly to Hostelworld (so it's an app fee hiding under the guise of a deposit), I am woefully loyal to this app as I love the interface of it all. It is so well organized and keeps all your trips in one place with all the information you could ever need about the property. You can also see reviews from other guests and can sort by overall ratings. I also love the ability to scroll when I'm feeling a sense of wanderlust and want to reminisce on all the great places I've visited!
Let's call a spade a spade here - travelling ain't cheap. While saving is instrumental to enjoying your trip to its full potential, it is easier now than ever to make money remotely or find work opportunities while abroad.
Upwork- Upwork is a freelancing app that you can sign up for and apply for jobs based on your personal skillset. For example, I'm a writer and so when I have some free time while travelling, I'll apply to some writing gigs for some extra cash. Almost anything that can be done remotely, you can find on Upwork.
Whether your talent is in graphic design, translation services, or social media management, freelance apps are a great way to make some extra cash while on the road.
Workaway- While many volunteer opportunities won't pay you, many can (and should) offer you room and board in exchange for your time and work. Workaway is a great, user-friendly site that not only connects you to hosts around the world but also to other travellers. Just input your destinations and the dates you're planning to be there, and wait for the messages from hosts and new friends you have yet to meet to start flooding in!
So whether it's your dream to work at an elephant sanctuary, au pair for a local family, or teach English, odds are you'll find it on Workaway.
Translation and Currency Conversion
Let's face it, there are a heck of a lot of languages out there (I just googled it, there's about 7,100), so being fluent or conversational in every language in every place you go is simply not feasible. Same with currencies; what's $50 USD here is 200k KHR, or 1 MILLION Dong there. Having the mathematic equations of each currency memorized is impressive but also, unrealistic. These apps can help you with communicating abroad, as well as give you a better understanding of how much you're spending.
Google Translate- If there is one app on this list I recommend above all else, it's Google Translate. Not only is it backed with every language known to man, but it also has a nifty camera feature where you can take pictures of signs/menus and translate on the fly. You have the ability to download languages and use them even if you are offline and can't find a signal (although, I find utilizing this feature is hit-and-miss as to if it'll actually work).
Also, a source of wholesome entertainment for me is that sometimes the camera-to-translate feature screws up and makes the most absurd translation mistakes. It's never not funny.
XE- I use this app for finding real-time currency conversion. It also shows you charts of how certain currencies are doing within the market, and you can even use it to send money (although I've never used this feature personally). It's also helpful for keeping track of several currencies at once so you can compare country to country.
Viator- Viator is a helpful resource for booking tours. You can book directly via the app and receive exact details such as where you'll be picked up, a detailed itinerary, and reviews from others who have done the tour. There is also (at the time of writing this) a 10% off coupon on your first booking when downloading the app. We're travellers... every penny counts.
Been- This app is more fun and interesting than necessary. Been lets you log each country you've been to and fills out a map of your destinations. Think of it as a virtual scratch map. It also shows you how many countries you've been to, as well as breaks down the percentage of the world and each continent you've visited.
As of right now, I've been to 28 countries, which only accounts for 11% of the world... to me, this translates to "I have a lot of work left to do".
WhatsApp- We don't actually use WhatsApp a lot in North America, so when I started travelling I was amazed at how universal this app is. The part I like most about it is that regardless of where I am in the world and whichever SIM card I have, I can keep my WhatsApp locked to my Canadian number, so anyone from home can always find me on there and contact me. As long as you have a valid wifi signal or data, you can connect with anyone that also has WhatsApp and send messages, photos, and even do video calls.
And there you have it. A short but sweet list of my top must-have travel apps! Are there any other apps you'd add to this list? Comment below to share with other travellers!
Note- all of these suggestions are real apps that I use - this is not a sponsored post and I make no commission off the suggestions - I just want to share the wealth :)